Reverend Adlai Mack is used to being the person people go to with concerns. As the minister of a San Diego church, he frequently provides support and counseling to members of his congregation.
When Mack was diagnosed with an aggressive form of prostate cancer, however, he was the one who needed support. He found it from his family, his congregation and the team at the Douglas & Nancy Barnhart Cancer Center at Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center.
Mack began having symptoms in 2019 and promptly visited his urologist, who discovered prostate cancer. He advised Adlai to take action quickly, giving him a referral to Dr. Ryan Bair, a radiation oncologist at the Barnhart Cancer Center.
"He's wonderful," Adlai says of Dr. Bair. "Approachable, easy to talk to, doesn't scare you. Although my treatment left me drained, in the grand scheme of things, it was easy."
The treatment Adlai and Dr. Bair decided on was high-dose rate (HDR) brachytherapy. Also sometimes called internal radiation therapy, brachytherapy involves placing a radiation source directly within or near the tumor site, sparing nearby healthy organs and tissue. Compared to low-dose rate (LDR) brachytherapy, HDR brachytherapy involves a shortened treatment time and smaller applicators, and can often be done as an outpatient procedure.
"HDR brachytherapy offers many benefits to patients," says Dr. Bair. "We can get it done in 2 to 3 days, the side effects are minimal, and cure rates are high. The accuracy is very appealing to many patients. With HDR, we have much better control of where the radiation dose goes."
In addition to his cancer diagnosis, Mack has received kidney dialysis for the last 15 years, so it was important to him to do his research. He read everything he could about prostate cancer and his treatment options. He had 2 surgeries to place catheters, and 25 radiation sessions. Equipped with his own research, team of doctors and personal faith in God, Mack felt well-prepared for the road ahead. Also key to his treatment, Mack says, was following a vegan diet.
"It was challenging at first because I enjoy eating meat, dairy and sweets, but once I started doing it, I learned how delicious salads can be," Adlai says. He continues to follow vegan and vegetarian diets. During a follow-up visit with Dr. Bair, he received the good news he had been praying for: The treatment did what it was supposed to do.
"I remember that day - I rejoiced," Adlai says. "My wife, Sandra, our 3 children and 3 grandchildren - they were all relieved."
With his diagnosis and treatment behind him, Adlai continues to follow a vegan diet and take care of his health. He's also taking the opportunity to share his experience with the hope that it might help others.
"I would tell anyone facing a diagnosis like mine to get yourself a really good doctor. Be prepared to make changes, such as to your diet. Don't let yourself stay down - be hopeful, positive and cheerful. And pray."
Meet Dr. Bair and learn more about HDR brachytherapy as a treatment option for prostate cancer during a free webinar, Advanced Treatment Options for Prostate Cancer, on Thursday, July 29, at 6 pm. Learn more or register.